Saturday, April 5, 2008

To know the future, look to the past....

Howdy all,
When I was doing some spring cleaning, I came across this old photo of my great-great grandfather (that's him with the mallet in his hand and the white beard) posing with the crew from the first Glacier Brewing Company. It was located on the lake where the old mill used to be before it burned down. His name was Otto Schaefer. He started the brewery two years after he arrived in the area with his old business partner, David Polson. They were originally going to start a business of hauling east-coasters around the lake in traditional dug-out canoes. But after miserable experiences with sinking canoes, Otto decided to pursue his grandfather's passion, brewing beer. His brewery saw much greater success than did the canoe venture. He was best known for hauling his beers over the Mission Mountains in the winter to the Swan Valley to keep the government elk-breeding researchers supplied. It was on one of these trips when he encountered a lost and starving group of hunters. He was able to get their fire going and got them fed with a bark stew. If not for his efforts and good timing, the whole group of fifteen hunters would have perished! This is where Schaefer Ridge got it's name.

Years later, he decided to sell the Polson brewery to his brewery manager, Derk Cleaveland and head out to eastern Montana. He reopened the Glacier Brewing Company and stage stop near Crows Bluff, Montana. He operated the brewery and stage stop singlehanded for many more years before dying at the ripe old age of 107! The family story says that he was too stubborn to die.
His original brewery in Polson met a similar fate at the hands of Derk Cleaveland. For years, Mr. Cleaveland had been scooping out dirt from under the brewery to mix in with the grains. He had scooped out so much, in fact, that one day during a fierce storm, the entire brewery collapsed into the lake! What little there was to salvage was used to build the Klondike Steamship. One of the kettles was recovered and used as one of Polson's first water towers.
I hope you've enjoyed this little-known family history as much as I've enjoyed telling it.

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